This autobiographical story follows a six-year-old girl’s experiences of leaving Cuba during the late 1950s to join her parents in America. Gabriela’s parents had to leave Cuba after Fidel Castro came into power, and her father returns to Cuba to get Gabriela from her grandparents. When Gabriela arrives in New York, she is amazed by the cold weather and the snow falling from the sky—she had never seen snow back home. Gabriela misses the warm Cuban sun, but enjoys her new home and soon adjusts to learning English at school. At first, she just listens to the teacher and students, but in a few months, she starts to learn to speak English and even makes some friends.
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She is happy, but misses her grandparents, who are still in Cuba. After several months of waiting, her grandmother comes from Cuba to live with them, but has to wait two additional months for Gabriela’s grandfather to join them because President Castro made it difficult for people to travel to the United States. At the end of the book, Gabriela is a very happy little girl with her parents and both sets of grandparents living close to her, in New York.
The book includes phrases in Spanish throughout that are immediately translated into English, as well as a glossary at the end. The author used her own personal experiences of leaving Cuba to describe the feelings that Gabriela encounters during her move to America. Award-winning illustrator Raul Colón’s beautiful artwork is a warm mixture of watercolors and colored pencils. Colón has received numerous awards, including the Belpré Illustrator Medal.
—Reviewed by Dr. Veronica Covington, School of Information, University of Texas, Austin